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How Do You Prepare for a Hunt?

By Keith Wood

The Question
I have a big hunt coming up, what should I be doing?

The Answer
Well, you should be doing something but that depends on what kind of hunt you’re planning.
Let’s assume that you’re headed to the mountains for a guided big game hunt. Take me for example; I’m a couple of weeks out from hunting elk in Wyoming with Non-Typical Outfitters. Put simply, I need to be able to walk and shoot. In this case, elk camp is about 8250 feet higher than my hometown and the ground is a heck of a lot steeper so physical preparation is key. The outfitter suggests familiarity with your rifle/load to 400 yards, which means plenty of time on the range. Gear prep is also key.

The Physical Prep
Adapting to altitude is no joke- the best solution is to get to the area early and build some red blood cells but work schedules don’t always allow for that.
My goal is to be in the best shape possible when I arrive. I use a combination of weight training, Crossfit workouts, hiking, and running “stadiums” to prepare myself. If I’m on the road, I spend an hour walking the stairwell in the hotel. The last thing that I want to do is get injured shortly before a hunt so I dial back the intensity just a bit as I enter the final weeks. I also transition to lighter weights and increased cardio as I get closer to go time. I don’t do anything but travel, relax and drink a bunch of water during the 48 hours prior to the hunt.

Diet is also a crucial part of this equation, I try to stay pretty lean year-round but I’ll watch the carbs and the booze for these last few weeks to shed an extra 3-5 pounds. This is easier said than done, since it’s college football and archery season at home.

Get Your DOPE
Absolute comfort with your rifle or bow should be a prime objective in the weeks and months prior to the hunt.
As a writer, sometimes guns don’t show up until the last minute, which makes this all the more difficult. I’ll be toting an ultralight .300 WSM from MG Arms on this trip. After testing a few brands and a couple of handloads, I settled on DoubleTap Ammo’s 180gr. Accubond load due to its accuracy, bullet choice, and consistency. After getting the rifle zeroed at 200 yards, I dialed my 300-yard dope on my Leupold CDS dial and my hits were spot-on. From now on, I’ll be off the bench and shooting steel targets from field positions out to 500 yards. I don’t plan on taking those kinds of shots, but let’s say my first round wounds the bull and I have an opportunity for a follow-up at that distance? I want to be comfortable making that shot. Dry-fire practice and shooting spinning steel targets with a scoped .22 rimfire will round out my regimen.

Know Your Game
If you’re unfamiliar with the game and/or area, do some homework and find out what makes for a trophy animal in that geography.
Your expectations should fit the locale and you shouldn’t have to rely 100% on your guide to know what a shooter is- especially if you’re hunting without one.

Get Your Gear Together
Make a list of what you’ll need and buy any needed items far enough in-advance to make sure they arrive on time and that they work for you.
Waiting for a box from Cabelas on the day of your trip not a sign of good preparation. If you’re flying, weigh everything so you don’t have any surprises at the ticket counter.

Blisters have probably ruined more hunts than you can imagine.
Break in your boots months ahead of time and prepare a “blister kit”. Unless your feet are bulletproof, get yourself a copy of “Fixing Your Feet”. It’s the Bible of foot care for endurance athletes and soldiers.

Am I Crazy?
Maybe, but I spend most of the year thinking about Fall, saving my dollars,
applying for tags, working out, and shooting my rifles- I’m not going to blow all of that because I’m too lazy to put in the hard work when it matters.

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